It’s Monday, the beginning of the first full week of the Age of the Donald. Despite the apocalyptic talk from Progressives, the world did not end when Donald Trump took the oath of office Friday. The left, for a group that seemingly despises religion, does like to go full Book of Revelations to describe the future every time they lose an election. But for most Americans, it was just the beginning of another work week. (Unless you’re a Patriots’s fan. Or a Falcons’s fan. Then your work week probably began with a slight spring in your step).
As for President Trump’s Inaugural Speech, it was definitely not your traditional “Let’s put aside our differences” style of speech that is normally given. And that defying of expectations ruffled a lot of feathers in the pundit class. The recurring theme of the pundits to describe the speech involved the word “dark” or variations on the theme.
I listened to the speech. It was many things, but it wasn’t dark. This was a speech that was clearly targeted to those people who voted Trump, the “forgotten men and women”. It was a pledge to supporters, and a reminder to the DC political class, that there is a new sheriff in town. From a rhetorical point of view, it is a good speech. It did what it set out to accomplish. The theme was “Making America Great Again” and it delivered on that theme.
From a substantive point of view, the speech is not so good. The entire speech is a contradiction. President Trump stated:
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.
This is an accurate statement and it’s a good one. Americans want to be safe and free to do what they want for themselves and their families.But consider this passage:
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.
We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
Therein lies the problem. You cannot give Americans the freedoms they want, desire, and deserve if every economic decision is being made in Washington, DC. That was why Milton Friedman titled his defense of Free Market Capitalism Free to Choose. It doesn’t matter whether the decisions are made by President Trump or Chuck Schummer or whoever. If you want America to prosper, the government must do less not more.
If a company wants to set up shop in another country, the decisions of the American men and women who run and own the company should be respected. If you are concerned about the impact on the workers who have lost their jobs because the company moved, then consider the regulatory environment which led to the decision. Then the government should ask, “How can we reduce this burden?”
Trade has improved the lives of millions of Americans. It also improves the lives of citizens of our trading partners. And the better their lives become, the less likely they will seek to enter this country illegally to seek work. Restricting trade and forcing companies to stay in the United States will not make America great, it will lessen America by driving up the cost of American made goods. The more things cost, the less people can buy.
How the Administration will square that circle is left to be seen.
Saturday saw both the Women’s March on Washington and the first meeting of the Press with President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
By any metric you want to use, the march was a success. Well, except for Madonna failing to realize the Secret Service does not consider a sense of humor to be an asset for its agents. There was a massive turnout in Washington as well as all across the country. All these people came together to protest…
Well in reality, I have no idea what they were protesting.
Donald Trump had, by the time the march/protest got under way, been President less than 24 hours. There was no policies enacted, decrees issued, or pronouncements that anyone could point to as to why the march was organized. This was simply a march by people who do not like President Trump and what they believe he means for our society and culture.
This is not a knock against the organizers or the participants. On the contrary, Saturday’s event needs to acknowledged. The organizers got 3+ million people to march for no tangible reason other than dislike of Trump’s perceived social stances. 3 Million people is nothing to sneeze at. This, not Occupy Wall Street, could be the Democrats’ answer to the Tea Party. But that is also the organizers’ weakness.
President Obama came to office, promising hope and change in a time of economic downturn and uncertainty. But other than a pork laden “shovel ready” stimulus bill, Obama and the democrats spent the 2009-2010 cycle social engineering. The most obvious example everyone can point to is Obamacare. But there was also Cash for Clunkers program which made it harder for lower income people to get jobs because it raised the price of used cars by reducing the supply. The Democrats also tried to social engineer housing policy. It was this attempt and CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s impromptu challenge to it that led to the creation of the Tea Party.
The Tea Party’s success in that election cycle was from those candidates campaigning only on fiscal issues. So, if the Trump Administration focuses like a laser beam on the economy and produces tangible results that benefit the American People, then the Republican Party should do OK in 2018 midterms. But if Trump & the GOP decide to follow the 2009 Democrat Playbook by concentrating on non-fiscal matters, the movement witnesses Saturday will be focal point for the Democrat Party resurgence and it will be ugly for the GOP.
The other thing Saturday saw was the rebirth of the Lamplighter Industry. For those not familiar with this group, during the Victorian Age, advances were made in chemistry that allowed the use of gas and coal to produce gas lamps. And every evening men would go down the street, turning the lights on. This was where the term “gas lighting” originated.
In the 20th Century, the term gained new currency as a description of a form of mental abuse whereby one manipulates the subject into doubting his/her sanity by constantly misdirecting, contradicting, and lying to the subject. This use came from a 1938 play and the superb 1944 film adaptation starring Ingrid Bergman.
In the 21st century, gas lighting became a major political tool. The Obama Presidency applied it vigorously to claim those who opposed the President did so only because they were insane:
A “gaslighting” strategy would be a subtle variation of David Plouffe’s “stray voltage” gambit–under which the Obama White House provokes legitimate controversy, perhaps by releasing questionable, Pinocchio-baiting statistics (e.g. women earn 77 cents what men earn), in order to keep an issue in the public eye. Here the administration would provoke a controversy that’s so legitimate, and behave so maddeningly, that it distracts from issues the administration wants out of the public eye–all while it makes Republicans seem unappealing obsessed with the side issue.
The Trump Administration has taken the Obama Administration’s techniques and refined them. Bigly. So when you see the utterly bizarre Presser on Saturday where Sean Spicer claimed that President Trump’s Inauguration was the largest in history and by implication, larger than the opposition march, the Press Secretary is acting as a Lamplighter. And the internet was the gaslight, exploding with incredulity.
(I give Spicer full credit for saying something so demonstrably untrue with a straight face).
That is all folks have been discussing. Which seems to be the point. Progressives and their media allies have gone absolutely overboard in responding. Some are applauding CNN for not covering the Presser live. No one seems to realize this is exactly what this administration wants. When news outlets announce they won’t show press interactions live, but will only show what they want to show, it reinforces the view the press is biased and not the neutral arbiters they claim to be. The media has neutered itself as the institution to hold politicians accountable.
Now as noted above, many on the left went full “End Times” on the existence of President Trump, his speech and the dangers of his administration. There were the inevitable comparisons to Hitler and such. There was an outbreak of violence by some elements of the left. And it appears many of those who were arrested following the rioting are looking at serious jail time for their actions. The phrase Alternative Facts was used to described Spicer’s comments. But it also applies equally to the Left and the Media.
A lot was made Friday of how the Trump Administration had purged the White House website (WhiteHouse.gov) of all reference to LGBT issues and Climate Change, etc. Except they didn’t. As the Obama Administration noted, eighty-one (81) days ago, once President Trump assumed office, the Obama White House website was removed and archived and the Trump Administration began building their website. In other words, everything that happened Friday was part of the transition and fully anticipated and expected. There was no grand conspiracy.
Progressives are also gaslighting themselves. There is the following meme making the rounds on social media:
Progressives have responded with their own version:
As noted before, the Left has decided to ignore reality and opt for Alternative Facts where they are always correct. The Progressive version of Sally shows what Leftists are:
What? You think I’m wrong? Let’s look at the Merriam Webster definition:
a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
By deciding that anyone who voted for Trump is a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, xenophobe, the left is acting intolerant to those who disagree with them and lumping them all into a single group.
The biggest danger the new Administration’s gaslighting approach is his supporters are being swept up by it, arguing and defending the ridiculous. Gas lighting is successful when your opponents look unhinged by obsessing on the trivial. If your supporters go to the wall for the trivial, it diminishes the effect.
As an example, by any objective criteria (photographic evidence, metrorail usage, television ratings), the attendance at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than Obama’s. And it is not that surprising. Barack Obama’s election was a cultural milestone: the first non-Caucasian to be President of the United States. His reelection was also a milestone. People want to be there for major cultural events.
President Trump’s swearing in was not a major cultural event. The need for people to be there wasn’t as great. (However, if the Trump Presidency is a success, a lot of people in the future will claim to have been there, much like Woodstock). It also doesn’t matter if fewer people came to Washington to see President Trump than saw President Obama. Even if only 1 person showed up to see it, Donald Trump would still have become President.
Trump supporters were going full Zapruder in showing how the pictures really show millions of people in attendance and twenty-five people at the Saturday march. I lived in DC is the early to mid ’90s. There is no way you could have 250,000 people on the Mall at 11:04 am and then have over a million and a half appear by 11:30 am. The transportation infrastructure simply isn’t equipped for such surges.
Trump supporters must remember the most important rule of politics: when your opponent is digging a hole, don’t help. When the press is going bat-crap crazy over the latest outrageous comment made by the Trump administration, don’t pull out the Powerpoint Slides to show why Trump is right and the press is wrong. Instead, channel the spirit of candidate Ronald Reagan: smile, shake your head in amazement at your opponent’s foolishness and say, “There you go again.”